Banks Optimistic on Economy Still Keep Cutting Expenses

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- You could follow what banks say, or what they do. Or at least what they say they are going to do, which is cut expenses.

Cutting expenses is the theme that emerges from a review by Goldman Sachs financial services analysts of their most recent conference last week. The conference was held Tuesday and Wednesday and the latest report from Goldman (one of several they published on the conference) was published Monday.

"On the expense side, banks see opportunity to further reduce headcount and branches (albeit at a slower pace vs. 2013), and believe investments in technology, regulatory, and compliance costs should largely be in the run-rate by next year," Goldman's analysts wrote. "In terms of revenue improvements, commentary was more modest with banks noting they are managing what they can."

These phrases from Goldman's analysts offer a somewhat more bearish picture of the economy than the headlines (including our own) that came from CEO speeches.

Both Bank of America (BAC) CEO Brian Moynihan and Wells Fargo (WFC) CEO John Stumpf, for example, cited the mood of business banking clients in feeling more optimistic about the year ahead. 

Nonetheless, both CEOs said 2014 would be similar to 2013 in many respects. And much of their discussion of expenses, similar to that of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon focused on legal and regulatory costs.

Indeed, the bullish thesis on Bank of America for some time has been based on expense reduction, and Moynihan hewed closely to that theme in his comments last week. Moynihan said what Bank of America refers to as Legacy Asset Servicing expenses will go down by $1 billion per quarter next year as the bank lays off people it hired to address troubled home loans.

If you liked this article you might like

How to Make Your Life Successful Just Like Billionaire Warren Buffett

How to Get Rich Using Warren Buffett's Favorite Stock Market Indicators

With the Fed, It's Different This Time

How to Live Just Like Billionaire Warren Buffett

Why Hurricanes Won't Force the Fed to Ditch a December Rate Hike